Recapitalization of the fleet

Speaking at Shipbuilding Caucus

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp speaks about Coast Guard efforts to replace its aging surface assets at the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol today. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

During Haiti relief operations this past January, 10 of the 12 assigned Coast Guard cutters, or 83 percent, suffered significant mechanical problems that impeded their ability to respond to the catastrophic aftermath of the earthquake. Three had to suspend relief activities and leave the area to perform extensive repairs, including drydocking one ship.

The Coast Guard’s response to the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year illustrates the challenges the service faces with the declining condition of its fleet. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp spoke about the Coast Guard’s efforts to replace its aging surface assets at the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol today.

“My number one budget priority is recapitalization of our agile and versatile fleet,” said Papp.

The United States is a maritime nation and is dependent on the sea and our internal waters for commerce, sustenance and recreation. Our nation requires a robust Coast Guard fleet to protect the Nation’s more than 300 ports, 50,000 miles of navigable waterways and 95,000 miles of coastline.

FRC illustration

The Fast Response Cutter will be a key component of the Coast Guard’'s recapitalized fleet. It will have a crew capacity of 23 people and will be able to perform independently for a minimum of five days at sea.

The increasing number of major cutter system failures and declining reliability are a significant concern for the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security. Our cutter forces are a critical component to preserving the maritime safety and security of the United States.

Our cutters conduct rescues, enforce laws and promote security. They also work closely with other government departments and agencies to protect our nation. And when disaster strikes, like it did in Haiti, our cutters are able to redeploy by sea and help when other responders are still days away.

“The age of our ships is the primary factor leading to the increase in unexpected equipment failures,” said Papp, adding, “The average age of our high endurance cutters is over 41 years, compared to 14 years for a U.S. Navy ship.”

The Coast Guard’s current ship acquisition projects include:

National Security Cutter (NSC) – The NSC will be the new flagship of our surface fleet, replacing our long-serving 378-foot High Endurance Cutters. Two of eight planned NSCs have been commissioned (Bertholf and Waesche) and are on the seas executing Coast Guard missions. The third, Stratton, was recently christened and is scheduled for delivery next year. The Coast Guard is currently negotiating contracts for cutters four and five.

Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) –The Coast Guard is continuing its market research and pre-acquisition activities for the eventual successor to our 210-foot and 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutters, and is engaging with multiple U.S. shipyards as part of its research efforts. A request for initial design proposals is notionally scheduled for release in early 2011, and current plans call for a total of 25 OPCs.

Fast Response Cutter (FRC) –Four of these new, advanced patrol boats are now under construction at Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, La. The lead cutter, Bernard C. Webber, is on schedule for delivery in the spring of 2011, with deliveries of the next three cutters not far behind. Earlier this month, a contract option for four more FRCs was awarded to Bollinger, bringing the total number of cutters under contract to eight. The first 12 cutters (of 58 planned) will be homeported in Miami and Key West, serving critical law enforcement and migrant interdiction missions in areas such as the Florida Straits and the Caribbean.

“Without these new ships, we cannot continue to be Semper Paratus – Always Ready,” said Papp.

Tags: , ,


  • C. Wright

    I believe our fleet readiness was in a steady decline well well before I retired in 2005. Based upon what I read and what friends and relatives still in the Coast Guard tell me, the fleet is nearly in free fall. The crews know it, the senior commanders know it and I’m sure Admiral Papp knows it. Why doesn’t Congress get it? It appears they need a powerful wake-up call. I hope that wake-up call doesn’t involve a significant tragedy aboard an aging vessel where CG personnel are hurt or another embarrassing incident like not being able to provide a Polar icebreaker when needed. My Congressman gets regular letters asking what he’s doing about it. The current time frame for replacing the fleet is too long.

  • Chuck Hill

    We need to accelerate our replacement program. But if we don’t as we won’t get what we need, and it looks like to me we are not asking long enough or loud enough.

    Why the long lag in the NSC program? why the delay in the start of the OPC program? All the 210s are going to be 54 years old before they are replaced.

    Where is the program to replace the WLI/WLICs and the icebreaking tugs?

    Where are the Arctic Patrol Cutters and the new icebreakers?

  • Michael

    Quit using Bollinger ship yard. The new securiy cutters are a disgrace! If that is what we can expect from future ventures we are wasting the taxpayers money. The bouy tenders we had built seemed to have a lot fewr “issues”.

  • Brandon

    So I was reading the navytimes today and they have an artical about “FLYINGHUMMERS” showed some crazy picture.. more or less it looks like a joke but the time and money spent thrown around researching and making the computer grapic picture, and printing it why cant that money that was wasted on some stupid thing like a flying hummer go to the coast guard the under bugeted service how are we supposed to do our job on equipment that is from the lowest bidder? and the navys making flying hummers

  • Rob T.

    Why don’t we just merge with the Boarder Patrol? I mean, they pretty much do everything we do, except SAR and ATON. Why are we wasting our time and breathe calling ourselves military if we can’t even get the money for the boats or the ammo to support our missions? All of the other services, Boarder Patrol included, have more than enough money and their advancement is based on job preformance, not how well you do taking tests. It’s about time to recapitalize, but is it in time?

  • Denis

    Make it happen faster! Equipment does not work.Enough research already. Build the ships now; before the existing fleet sinks or is decommissioned.

  • Steve W

    Why are we buying only 8 NSC’s? That’s not a 1 for 1 swap with 378′s. How will the number of FRC’s & 87′s compare to the number of 82′s & 95′s? Are we back to doing more with less. Heck the CG doesn’t even have a spare HH60 to replace the latest one that crashed. Will we have to buy another surplus Navy helicopter like last time? Sad…